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On October 26, 1979, President Park Chung Hee, who had ruled South Korea since a 1961 coup, was assassinated by Kim Jae Kyu, his director of intelligence. The film depicts the events of that night, with a coda about the fate of each conspirator. While Park dines in the Blue House with two associates and two young women, Kim carries out his plot. He talks briefly of bringing democracy; mostly he seems irritated. The other assassins seem without motive beyond following orders. The killings are bloody, the aftermath equally disorderly and haphazard. Can major events of history be so mundane, so nearly comic? Written by
A brutally effective amalgam of political film and violent actioner
US release: fall 2005. Shown at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, October 2005
After Park Chunghee became President of South Korea by military coup in 1961 he made major contributions to the country's industrialization and economic development but became a dictator by altering the constitution and declaring martial law. He must have had many enemies, and there had already been other assassination attempts by 1979, the moment depicted in the film, when Kim Jaegyu, his KCIA chief, shot him and several of those closest to him at a private bacchanal held at a palatial KCIA safe house. The events are depicted from Kim's point of view. "The President's Last Bang," which is brutal in its unreflective, intense, present energy, is half political film and half violent actioner. It amply shows how corrupt and cynical Park was; how much Koreans at this point enjoyed kicking, punching, and slapping their subordinates in front of others; their abusive and demeaning treatment of women; and their penchants for smoking and chewing gum. After the killings which went on to include military guards and even cooks there was a brief period of chaos, also well covered in the film. Kim expected to get away with it, but he and his closest accomplices are soon apprehended. Director I'm includes humor amid the horror, showing the clumsiness and confusion and sheer incompetence of some of the participants. It's interesting to observe how impulsive and improvised the shootings were, and how often the ruling class shifts in their conversation to the Japanese language to be more elegant or avoid being understood by underlings. The film is effective technically and illustrates South Korean cinema's growing sophistication, but it may leave non-Korean viewers cold; the film-making style feels as hard and brutal as the events.
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